Students Relocated Due to Fire in Brown Residence Hall

Officials inspect the fire damage in room 302 of Brown Residence Hall.

About 40 students living on the third floor of Brown Residence Hall will be relocated to other campus dorm rooms for the night following a fire that broke out in room 302 at about 7:30 p.m. 

Large fans were set up to blow air through the first and second floors of the building to vent the hall and help reduce the smell of smoke. The remaining 80 students living on the first and second floor of the building will be allowed to return to their rooms about 11:30 p.m. 

After inspection, officials confirmed that there was no structural damage or water damage to any other rooms in the residence hall.  

Officials believe the fire started when a backpack that was lying against a radiator combusted into flames. The student returned to the room to find the fire and closed the door, thus containing the fire to the room. 

Heidi Johnson, the graduate resident in Brown, said she ran out to find out who set off the fire alarm and ran into a distraught student. 

"He said, 'My room is on fire,'" Johnson said. "I immediately began telling everyone to get out. This is not a joke. This is not a drill."

As residents gathered outside the dorm, Johnson and Resident Coordinator Tyrone Jean decided to order pizza for the residents, many of whom walked across the quad to Alspaugh Residence Hall to watch the much anticipated Duke vs. Carolina men's basketball game, which started at 9 p.m.

"I'm just happy everyone is safe and really proud how people came together," Johnson said.

Larry Moneta, vice president for Student Affairs, responded to the scene soon after learning of the fire.  

Brown Residence Hall Fire
The Durham County Fire Department restricted access to Brown Residence Hall on East Campus Thursday night to inspect damage following a fire in room 302. (photo by David Jarmul)

"We are just thankful no one was hurt," he said. "We're grateful to the fire department for their incredibly quick and professional response and to everyone else who responded."

L.B. Bergene, associate dean of residence life of East Campus briefed students in the Marketplace around 10 p.m.

"Our first priority is that you are safe," she said. "Humans are our first priority. Possessions second."

Students living on the third floor were told that they would be escorted to their rooms to retrieve any necessary items for the evening since they would be spending the night elsewhere.

"The emergency management system worked exceedingly well," said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for Administration and Duke’s Emergency Coordinator. "We practice and drill these situations.  As we move to the recovery stage, we hope to keep things moving quickly."